Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – While many at Wednesday's City Council meeting demanded that ex-FBI agent Tom Parker be rehired to investigate the killing of David Josiah Lawson, chances of that happening appeared to dim Thursday with the revelation that Arcata City Attorney Nancy Diamond had sent him a cease and desist letter.
The letter threatens Parker with possible legal action unless he stops discussing aspects of the case and returns investigative materials. Read the letter here.
Labeled in part a "Notice of Breach" in reference to his contract with the City of Arcata, Diamond's letter directs Parker to stop talking about the details of the case he learned while he had access to confidential investigative records. It cites a confidentiality clause in the contract which states in part, "you expressly agreed to protect the confidentiality of such information even after termination of the Agreement."
Parker had been hired by the city last August to assist APD with the investigation into the April 15, 2017 killing of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson. He resigned last week, and a day later, so did Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman.
In recent days, Parker has made himself available to radio, television and print journalists, discussing the case and making a number of allegations against the city and Arcata Police. He has told reporters that the APD was negligent and disinterested in pursuing the Lawson case, hadn't conducted crucial tests of evidence or even followed basic procedure. He said city officials didn't communicate with him in a timely fashion, and didn't seem to devote a lot of time to the case.
The letter is dated April 17, the day after Parker's explosive interview with KHSU's Lorna Bryant aired on the Humboldt State University radio station. It cites other alleged disclosures of confidential information which says occurred on "at least" on April 13 and April 16.
It cites an email message he sent to Councilmember Susan Ornelas in which Parker himself stresses the importance of holding case details secret, because premature disclosures make it "very difficult to preserve an environment for a fair trial when facts or conclusions advertantly become public before they should," and that disclosures "can cause mistrials and dismissal of charges."
States Diamond's letter, "Not only does your conduct violate the confidentiality provision of the Agreement, it threatens the integrity of the investigation and the preservation of an 'environment for a fair trial'."
The letter says that Parker resigned his employment as a consultant on the Lawson case via an email received by City Manager Karen Diemer received on April 10, and that this means his termination date would be Friday, April 20 – well after the media interviews took place. The employment agreement signed by Parker and former Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman on August 16 of last year, which is attached to the letter, states that it "may be terminated by either party upon 10 days advance notice."
Parker didn't seem to heed the parts of the letter demanding he stop talking to the press, as he was still doing so April 19. He told the Union he had referred Diamond's letter to his attorney.
Parker said that the comments to which the city objected had to do with testing of the weapon used to kill Lawson, but that that had already been discussed in open court, neutralizing the city's claim. "What I'm accused of - violating the confidentiality clause – was discussed at the preliminary hearing," he said.
The city letter also demands the return by Friday, technically his last day under contract, of any investigative materials he may still have, including "documents, reports, and other written, graphic or electronic materials and other materials given to you or prepared by you concerning the Lawson investigation before April 20, 2018."
Concludes the letter, "Failure to comply with these demands may result in the City pursuing additional remedies against you without further notice including, without limitation, injunctive relief and damages."
With the Lawson case unsolved after a year and seemingly at a standstill, the City Council directed Diemer Wednesday to look into alternatives for investigating the matter other than the Arcata Police Department.